Django Unchained is the movie that should take home best picture this weekend. It’s an audacious and bold piece of filmmaking that both pays homage to cinema’s past (the spaghetti western) and ruthlessly deconstructs its uglier side (Confederate nostalgia). It is stuffed with big, impressive performances from the likes of Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio and little, impressive performances from Don Johnson and Walton Goggins.* It has a brilliant soundtrack and the single best sequence of the year.
It has no chance of winning.
Quentin Tarantino’s latest is the tale of a slave who becomes a bounty hunter, cutting a path of death through the South on the way to rescuing his wife from a sadistic slave owner who forces his chattel to fight to the finish for his amusement. In typical Tarantino fashion, humor mixes with savagery to exhilarating effect. It is that very exhilaration that some find off-putting, I imagine.
We must remember that the typical Academy voter skews a little older and veers toward the staid when choosing what to honor with best picture. It’s why Lincoln was considered a favorite for so long—only to be replaced by Argo as the clear frontrunner the closer we get to Oscar night. Django isn’t a particularly challenging film in the formal sense; the narrative is clear-cut and straight-ahead, eschewing the chronological tricks QT has a demonstrated fondness for. But I can see how some would find it a challenging film in other ways, serving, as it does, as an explicit rejection of many standards we have come to accept.
Regardless, this is the picture that should take home the Oscar gold: It’s a better film about Hollywood than Argo; it’s a better film about slavery than Lincoln; and it’s a better film about brutal justice than Zero Dark Thirty.
*On the negative side of things, it’s worth noting that Jamie Foxx’s titular performance is relatively unimpressive. He’s simply overshadowed by every other actor in the film. Except, perhaps, for Tarantino’s performance late in the film which is delivered with a decidedly questionable Australian accent.